While threats like data breaches are outside of our hands as average Internet users, there are several steps that we can take to improve our security online. With the the New Year, many of us are brainstorming ways to improve certain aspects of our lives and our online lives are one area that shouldn’t be overlooked.
If the crowds at the gym in January, followed by the massive decrease in attendance in February isn’t a glaring indication that our well-intentioned resolutions are too ambitious to fulfill, I don’t know what is. Instead of psyching yourself up by creating overly-ambitious resolutions this year, start small with smaller, more easily-attainable goals.
By applying or incorporating just three of these resolutions per week, your online life will be in tip top shape in only three weeks.
21 Security Resolutions for 2021
1 - Use Browser Protection
With an adept browser protection tool, you can browse the web free of malicious popups, browser hijackers,malicious websites, and rogue browser extensions. Threats are everywhere online and they continue to grow in both quantity and quality.
2 - Update Your Passwords
You should be updating your passwords regularly, but let’s face it--how many people ACTUALLY do this? The New Year is a great time to update your passwords to protect your accounts. If you aren’t sure how to create a strong, yet memorable password, check out our guide: How to Create a Strong Password That You Will Remember. If you’re worried about forgetting your passwords, consider using a password manager to suggest secure passwords and automatically enter them for you.
3 - Use only Secure Websites
When using a website, look at it’s URL to see if it begins with https or http. The “s” in https stands for “secure”. This means that the website’s server uses a certificate to prove the website’s identity to browsers. That said, it’s important to keep in mind that not ALL websites that use https are safe. The best way to ensure your safety is always to type the website address directly and not click on links that could lead you to a phishing site or use browser protection to automatically block malicious websites.
4 - Stop Oversharing
Social media is a great way to stay connected to others, especially in the midst of social distancing and the COVID-19 Pandemic. What isn’t great is oversharing in ways that can put your privacy and security at risk. Things like your full birth date, current location, and real phone number should never be posted on social media because they can lead to identity theft. Posting your vacation plans ahead of the trip alerts potential home invaders when to visit your home.
5 - Be Smart with Social Media
At the time, it may not seem like a big deal to accept a friend request from someone you don’t know. This is another dangerous habit that puts you and your family at risk. Each and every thing you post is now available to a stranger to use in any way they wish. They might download your photos to use to create a fake profile to pose as you to scam your family and friends. Also, consider what happens when you post a picture of your child on their first day of school with a picture of the school in the background or a picture from their dance studio. This can easily lead to kidnapping. If there are people on your friends list who you don’t know, this is a great time to remove them. You can also learn more about 10 Things You Should Not Share Online.
Clean up your browser and prevent future scams
6 - Stay Updated
Software updates always come at the most inopportune times and it’s so easy to click the “remind me later” button. We’ve all been there, but the reality is that many of the most effective malware attacks take advantage of common programs because they provide cybercriminals with the largest reach. Each time an update is released, hackers are alerted of security flaws in older versions and design malware that targets anyone who didn’t apply the update right away.
7 - Take Extra Care with Emails
Emails come with a wide range of dangers from account breaches, malicious attachments, phishing scams, spam emails, and more. Consider how much sensitive information flows through your email account: receipts, account updates, appointment alerts, bill pay reminders, and so much more. Access to these things puts you at a high risk of identity theft. Make sure to always double check the email address of the sender to ensure it matches what you’d expect and never download unexpected attachments.
8 - Research Companies Before Doing Business With Them
If you haven’t heard of a company before, make sure to research them online first. A reputable company should be searchable and have reviews posted about them online. There, you can see whether others have had positive or negative experiences with them, whether the purchased goods actually arrived, and if the condition was as described. Check the BBB website to see if they have a business profile or the BBB Scam Tracker to see if anyone has reported them as a scam.
9 - Use a Data Breach Monitoring Tool
While you may be taking steps to stay safe online yourself, this doesn’t mean that everyone else is doing the same.The news headlines are full of reports of major websites experiencing data breaches, but only a small number of these breaches are made known to the public. Companies hide breaches every day for fear of the negative attention and loss of business that comes with their breach of customers' trust. Guardio offers account monitoring that can alert you right away if your account information was shared online or on the dark web for criminals to access so that you know to begin taking action to protect yourself right away.
10 - Check Your Bank Statements Regularly
Credit and debit card fraud happens all too easily. From undetected card skimmers, convincing phone scams, phishing websites, and data breaches, your card information is always at risk. By checking your bank statements regularly, you increase your chances of recovering your money and minimize the amount of cleanup efforts needed to stop the fraudulent activity and avoid identity theft. If you should ever find a fraudulent charge on your statement, always make sure to contact your bank immediately
11 - Know What to Do if Your Information is Breached
When you’re alerted that your information was involved in a breach, panic tends to set in quickly and your ability to figure out what to do will be clouded with emotion. Instead of waiting until it happens to you to figure out what to do, educate yourself beforehand. You’ll want to make sure you know exactly what information was breached, what passwords you’ll need to change, and who to contact. If you don’t already have a plan in place, check out our guide: I've Been Breached: A Step By Step Guide to Protecting Your Data
12 - Stop Automatically Granting Permissions
When you visit a website or add a new app or extension, you’re probably used to being asked if you want to grant the website, app, or extension permissions. A common misconception is that you MUST accept all permissions in order to use the service, but this isn’t always the case. Blindly granting permissions can allow rogue programs to override your preferred settings, spy on your activity, display annoying advertisements, and so much more. Before granting permissions, make sure you read what permissions are being requested and consider why they might be necessary and never be afraid to decline the request.
13 - Lock Your Computer When You Walk Away
Consider all that you do on your computer. Someone else gaining access to your computer can see every site you visited, use your password manager to sign into anything they want to see, make changes to anything on your computer, delete information, or make posts posing as you. Instead of leaving all of this open for others, Windows users can simply press the Windows key & the letter L on their keyboard when walking away to lock access to the computer. This is highly important whether you’re in the workplace, working from home, or have visitors in your home no matter how much you trust those around you.
Clean up your browser and prevent future scams
14 - Stop Using Public WiFi
Public wifi connections are cesspools for hackers and cybercriminals. Those who set up these networks often lack the knowledge to adequately protect data travelling through the network which makes you vulnerable to attacks from hackers, in addition to anyone else connected to the same wifi network. If you must connect to the Internet while you’re away from your home network, make sure that you avoid any website requiring that you enter a password and especially avoid banking websites and online ordering. The best option when you’re out and about is to use your phone or tether your computer to your phone’s mobile wifi network.
15 - Set a Name and Password for your Home WiFi
If you walk up to your router to find the preprinted password that came with the router when it was brand new, you might believe that you’re password protected. This isn’t the case. Router manufacturers set a default password that applies to all routers of the same brand and model and this is easily searched online. Anyone driving down the road can see a Wifi name, starting with Linksys, Netgear, or any other router manufacturer and do one quick Google search to find the default password to infiltrate your Wifi connection, change your settings, and access any of your connected devices.
16 - Use Only Trusted Repair Technicians
Tech support scams are becoming more and more believable. What begins with an alert of a problem on your computer or an update that needs to be applied quickly turns into a full blown malware attack that renders your computer unusable. Cybercriminals post their phone numbers on these fake alerts and online so unsuspecting victims call them instead of the real repair technicians. Instead, use bigger name repair technicians or find someone locally who comes with others’ recommendations and never, ever give remote access to your computer online.
17 - Stay Educated About Current Scams
Scammers never quit and they’re constantly coming up with new tactics to make their tricks more believable. This allows them to outwit even the savviest computer users. What you might not realize is that tricks like the African Prince who needs to send your inheritance from a long lost relative don’t stay around because enough people fall for them. Scammers want people to think they’re easy to spot so that their real money-making scams are more believable. A great way to stay up to date on the most important scams is to stay up to date on the Guardio Blog.
18 - Understand Phishing Scam Techniques & How to Avoid Them
Phishing scams are a threat so prevalent that they deserve their own place. A phishing scam occurs when a cybercriminal poses as an individual or company to trick their victim into providing sensitive information. They may reach out to potential victims by phone, email, or lookalike website, but no matter the platform, their goal is simple: to obtain personal information that they can use to compromise your accounts or sell for profit on the dark web. You can learn more about how to identify and avoid phishing scams in our guide: Phishing Explained: Everything You Need to Know About Phishing Scams
19 - Educate Your Children About Online Safety
When most of us were children, the Internet either wasn’t widely available or hadn't evolved to its current stage. This means that those of us with children can’t glean on our parents’ examples when it comes to educating our children about how to safely use the Internet. Stranger danger, scams, unsavory content, and malware are all serious threats that our children come face to face with online and it’s important that they know how best to handle these situations. You can learn more about protecting your children online in our guide: Internet Safety For Kids: An Age-Based Guide
20 - Learn to Spot and Stop the Spread of Fake News
Fake news isn’t just misleading. It actually helps cybercriminals bring in advertising revenue for themselves. They lure readers in using outlandish headlines that vaguely relate to current events and provide readers with a story that may or may not align with the headline. In any case, the information presented either twists the truth or contains no factual basis at all. Within these articles, numerous advertisements are displayed and the writer profits each and every time someone opens the fake news article. It’s important for everyone to learn how to identify and thus stop the spread of fake news.
21 - Back up your data
While it’s unlikely a cybercriminal would be interested in your child’s baby photos, vacation photos, or photos of family gatherings, you’d be heartbroken if something happened and they were gone forever. Many of us have financial information stored on our computers, which make us even more vulnerable to cybercrime. That said, it’s not only cyberattacks you need to worry about. It’s mother nature as well. By regularly backing up your files online or on an external hard drive, you can secure your important documents and sentimental photos for years to come.